Planned Obsolescence: The eugenicist origins of our abortion mills

Last week saw a devastating blow for disability rights as the High Court ruled that allowing abortion up to full term for disability is not discriminatory.

The legal challenge is headed by Heidi Crowter, a 26 year-old woman with Down’s syndrome. Heidi, supported by Máire Lea-Wilson, as well as her family, her husband and campaign group Don’t Screen Us Out, believes that current abortion law sends a message to people like her that their lives matter less than everyone else’s. Her goal is to bring the law in line with the abortion limit for the non-disabled – 24 weeks. 

In response to the verdict, Heidi said: 

“We face discrimination every day in schools, in the work place and in society. And now thanks to this verdict the judges have upheld discrimination in the womb too.” 

On Twitter she said: “The judges might not think [the law] discriminates against me, the government might not think it discriminates against me, but I am telling you I feel discriminated against.”

Heidi and her team will appeal the decision. Please keep them in your prayers as they prepare for the next stage of their legal battle. 

I wasn’t planning to write an article about Heidi – although she of course merits all the publicity she can get – but as often happens, something else then caught my attention which started a whole new rabbit trail, and I had to run with it. So, if you’re ready for the rabbit trail, here goes. 

Another unholy trinity

What do Margaret Sanger, Marie Stopes, and Martin Cole have in common? (Other than that their names begin with the letter ‘M’, snarkier readers!)

Those involved in pro-life work will probably recognise that they’re all founders of three major abortion providers (Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes International, and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, respectively).

But they share even more in common. Shockingly (or not?), all three of these people believed that certain parts of the human population should be eliminated – for Sanger, this included the African American population as well as those deemed otherwise unfit; for Stopes it was the sick, weak or mentally ill and the “half-caste”; and similarly for Cole, who was a member of the British Eugenics Society. Let that sink in – the largest U.S. abortion provider and the two largest UK abortion providers were all founded by eugenicists. 

The legacies of these people are three giant abortion mills, which are responsible for the deaths of millions of unborn children, both healthy and sick, able-bodied and less able-bodied.  

I refer to Margaret Sanger briefly in my recently published book ‘For Those Being Crushed: Confronting Our Social Justice Blindspot’:

“But are we aware of the racist roots of the USA’s Planned Parenthood? Do we know that Margaret Sanger, one of PP’s founders, was a eugenicist who wanted to decrease the African American population? Consider these lines in a letter she wrote in 1939 to Clarence Gamble: ‘The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.’” (p.81). 

You can find out more about Margaret Sanger’s views and work here

If these racist, eugenicist beginnings disturb you, they should. Yet sadly, the legacy continues. As the above video points out, the leading cause of death among African Americans today is abortion, with many Planned Parenthood clinics strategically placed amongst poorer African American communities. Sanger would be proud. 

‘Elimination of wasteful lives’

But of course, Sanger is not the only one with connections to the type of eugenics the Nazis adopted. 

Marie Stopes, founder of the global organisation that bears her name, was also far from the champion of women’s rights that many assume. In Voice for Justice’s new book ‘Missing Millions: How abortion is harming us all’, Lynda Rose explains that although it is true that Stopes’ clinics were clustered in deprived areas, this was for the purpose of trying to stop those deemed unfit from breeding: “..she even lobbied Parliament to make sterilisation compulsory, in order to ‘…ensure the sterility of the hopelessly rotten and radically diseased… by the elimination of wasteful lives.’”(p.23).

Rose goes on to reveal that Stopes was a big fan of Hitler – “so much so that she sent him love letters and a bound copy of her poems.” 

This is unsurprising. The Nazi eugenics programme is perhaps the most well-known and most extreme example of this ideology put into practice (although it is not the earliest – sterilisation laws were put into place in the United States in the 1920s!). 

In my book I refer to Hitler’s concept of ‘Lebensunwertes Leben’ (life unworthy of life): 

“In his Second Book he praised the Spartans for their practice of selective infanticide, writing: ‘The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject, and indeed at any price, and yet takes the life of a hundred thousand healthy children in consequence of birth control or through abortions, in order subsequently to breed a race of degenerates burdened with illnesses.’” (p.54). 

Of course, we know that these ideas escalated drastically. What started out as forced sterilisation of anyone deemed physically or mentally ill, or socially aberrant, turned into mass murder. You can find out more about the history of Eugenics in the U.S. and Nazi Germany here.

What they wanted all along

Having observed the views of those who founded our biggest abortion mills, is it any surprise that our law still reflects injustice towards those with disabilities?

If Heidi Crowter says that she feels discriminated against, it’s because, statistically and legally, those with Down’s syndrome are discriminated against. Nine in ten women who are told their baby has Down’s syndrome choose to abort, and while mothers of babies deemed healthy can opt for abortion up to 24 weeks, people like Heidi can legally be killed right before birth. 

A Facebook friend put it so succinctly: “[Marie Stopes’ views are] completely in line with a strange contradiction in society, which is that disabled (or differently abled) people are encouraged, lifted up and included more than ever before… Except before birth, when it’s increasingly standard practice for doctors to recommend terminations if there’s a risk of even, say, down’s syndrome.”

And in ‘Missing Millions’, Robert S. Harris concludes in his excellent chapter on abortion and disability: “When performed on the grounds of disability, abortion is often chosen because parental expectations of having a ‘perfect’ baby are not being fulfilled. The practice of denying the right to life of those individuals who, in utero, show signs of, or are at risk of, developing a disability, contradicts society’s claim to be non-judgmental and accepting of all people. This is a form of eugenics, performed under the name of ‘reproductive rights’ or a ‘woman’s right to choose’.” (p.72). 

In this respect, our current law is not a deviation away from what abortion founders intended. It’s what they wanted all along. 

Please continue to pray for the lovely Heidi and for Máire Lea-Wilson as they continue fighting for disability equality; and pray for eyes to be opened to the beauty and value of all human life. 

P.S. You may notice I didn’t expand on the life of Martin Cole, the founder of Britain’s largest abortion chain, BPAS, due to length constraints. You can read about him here, and this line in particular seems a fitting end for such a legacy: “Cole lived out his last years alone, surrounded in his house by fertility statues.”

P.P.S. I know that ‘planned obsolescence’ is normally used to refer to the practice of creating products to go out of date. But I felt it was fitting here.

You can buy a copy of my book ‘For Those Being Crushed: Confronting Our Social Justice Blind Spot’ here or here. (Please note paperback version on Amazon should be available around 30/9). 

I also recommend buying a copy of ‘Missing Millions: How abortion is harming us all’, which gives the abortion for disability issue the thorough treatment it merits. You can purchase a copy here.

I hope to join Voice for Justice in the near future to discuss both of our books – keep an eye out for an update!


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